The NFL is expected to implement a 17-game schedule when the owners get together this week for league meetings virtually, and it's going to mean a game for the Bears on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders.
ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday reported what has been widely expected since the end of the season—the 17-game schedule is going to be confirmed.
Whether this means the extra Bears game would be in Las Vegas isn't certain yet because the schedule hasn't come out, but this is the matchup predetermined in the event of an expanded schedule and it's a road game because the AFC will host extra interconference games in 2021. In 2022 the NFC teams host them.
It's possible it could wind up being an international game even if it is a Raiders home game. This hasn't been determined. The COVID-19 situation might have something to do with the destination. Nothing on the schedule is certain yet until it's actually voted this week.
The NFL has played 16 games since the 1978 season. From 1961-1978 they played 14 games. It was 12 games between 1947 and 1961. Prior to that they seemed to fluctuate depending on how many teams they could field when the league was still rather shaky.
What this game means for the Bears is the Khalil Mack vs. Jon Gruden rematch.
The first one came in 2019 in London, Mack vs. the guy who didn't want him with the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders, as they were that season, won the game 24-21, a game that was a landmark contest of sorts because it triggered the start of Bears problems after they'd gone through a stretch of games under Matt Nagy when they were 15-5. They had gone 12-4 in 2018 and then won three of their first four in 2019 before the game in London, one which they fell behind 17-0 and then rallied to lead 21-17, but still managed to lose it anyway.
It was the game when the Bears lost Akiem Hicks and teams found afterward they could run on that defense—at least they did it more easily than prior to the injury.
Really, the Bears haven't been the same since then because they only had Hicks and Eddie Goldman in the defense anchoring the line for one other game since then, and they lost that one in Green Bay in 2019.
The Bears will no doubt find the Raiders a much different team after Gruden has been able to build up their weapons on offense and strengthen their defense somewhat more.
The Bears would have had the third most difficult schedule when the 16-game schedule was being used. Their opponents had a .553 winning percentage based on last year, so Las Vegas' 7-9 record moves them down a bit.
The 17-game schedule will not come with an extra bye week.
The players somehow have let the owners get away without doing this. So the regular season will end on Jan. 9 and the Super Bowl will move back one week to Feb. 13.
The other interesting aspect of this is how it breaks down for the playoffs. They will have two games on Saturday, Jan. 15, then three on Sunday, Jan. 16 but then will also have a Monday playoff game on Jan. 17.